A little known fact about GovLoop Founder Steve Ressler is that his sister (moi) is an English teacher, and that I too have my own website (it’s just not nearly as popular) called VocabGal about teaching vocabulary. However, I mentioned to Steve that I could write occasionally for his website about different crossover issues like writing or, in today’s post, about advice to give to graduates.
Because teachers are poor, we can’t afford to give gifts at the many graduation parties we attend, so I started giving graduates my advice on what to do in college (or life) based on my own past experiences. Enjoy and modify as you see fit, just don’t forget to mention that you got it on GovLoop!
Ms. Ressler’s Unsolicited Advice for College/Life
- Be excited about every day! In college, there was a lecture, poetry reading, improv performance, club meeting or art show to attend every night of the week (in addition to class)! I reveled in the innumerable daily activities. In the words of my dorm room poster with a picture of a fish in a bowl: “The fish is in. He is always in. If he goes out, he’ll die. You, however, have no excuse.” Enjoy every moment!
- Talk to your professors (or potential mentors). I had one class in college that no matter how hard I studied, I could never get an A. I still regret not going to that professor for advice on how to prepare. Professors have office hours so GO and get to know them, get advice for their class, maybe even get a free trip to a foreign country!
- Go away (I mean this nicely). Travel as much as you can; I had no idea how provincial my views were until I went to England. If you can’t fly, drive –get out of your state-explore the United States, Canada, Mexico etc. Your adventures will be unforgettable.
- Class is expensive-so go. In 1995, I estimated that each college class I attended cost about $200, based on my tuition at the time. Fifteen years later, I know this rate is higher, so make sure you schedule classes that you will be awake for and willing to attend. A mind, and the tuition paid to nurture it, is a terrible thing to waste. P.S.-Take as many classes as you can for your tuition bill. I took five each semester rather than the normal four and ended up at a higher pay grade in my first job because of it.
- Go to the writing center, student studies center, career services center etc. Part of that expensive tuition above is also being used to fund the centers that will help you writer better, learn more, and get a job when your four years are over. These invaluable centers of learning are underutilized so you look astute just for showing up, and become even more sagacious after heeding the advice of the people there
- Be an academic, but not be a perfectionist. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn in some ways. I have always loved academics because I love to feel erudite, but for too long I stressed over grades that in the end, were not always the true reflection of the learning I had done. Enjoy your learning, work hard at it, be proud of your accomplishments, but do not berate yourself if you are not always perfect. You are, after all, learning for your edification, not for letters in the alphabet.
- Seek out students from other countries. I was intimidated by foreign students as a freshman, but my roommate from India was so much fun! By getting to know many different students from all over, I broadened my worldview, had really interesting conversations, and ate amazing ethnic foods. Plus, if you invite a foreign student home for Thanksgiving, you get a place to stay when you travel abroad (quid pro quo).
- Volunteer for a good time. I went on two Habitat for Humanities Spring Break trips and paid less than $50 each for a week with friends, food and fun. I gained so much more out of helping someone else than I would have doing nothing on a beach-plus I got to see Texas and Florida for free. Side bonus: the more I helped others during the school year (as well as on spring break), the more I appreciated my own education and opportunities.
- Promote yourself. This advice I learned after college, but I think it applies to everyone. I have gotten my consulting job and joined an awesome literary blog because I took the initiative to talk to the company/e-mail the bloggers and suggest what I could do for them. I followed through with what I promised, and now I have had amazing and enriching experiences because I swallowed my fears of being rejected and/or embarrassed and asked for what I wanted.
- Never stop learning. I think I was obnoxiously smug throughout my college career, thinking I knew so much more than older adults did, being so caught up in my amazing experiences, and feeling like I could be better than all those who came before me. I am now more humble and recognize how much I still must keep striving to learn how I can be a better teacher, leader, learner, parent, and lexicon aficionado.
Essentially, I urge you to be adventurous and value your opportunities. Enjoy the ride!